I grew up surrounded by the flavors of Mexico. Southern California has carried over much of its food culture from when it was part of Mexico. Salinas, California was, and still is, a migrant town and more traditional Mexican food is very much a part of that experience. Growing up in Salinas, Mexican food has always been a part of my culinary life and I am continually drawn to the spicy, rustic flavors. Hot sauces are one of those things that can vary widely from one area to another, from one chef to another. Everyone has some little twist to their recipe. This recipe is all about the technique for me. The flavor you can achieve using a molcajete to grind the peppers and garlic by hand is amazing. You can’t get the same thing using a food processor, you must grind these ingredients by hand. It’s worth the effort.
This sauce uses dried Chile de Arbol, which is commonly available here in the southwest and is used widely in Baja California and northern Mexico. I work with the best ingredients I can so I use olive oil in mine because I have access to amazing olive oil from a local Monastery. I also use cherry tomatoes because those are the most abundant tomatoes I get from my own garden.
- 12-24 dried Chile de Arbol peppers
- 8-12 cherry tomatoes
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp Mexican Oregano (optional)
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Crush or dice one of the garlic cloves.
- Coat the cherry tomatoes with olive oil and season with a pinch of salt, pepper, garlic, and Mexican oregano.
- Spread tomatoes out on a baking sheet or stone and place in oven for 30 minutes. When done, set aside to cool.
- Remove stems from chiles.
- In the Molcajete, add salt, garlic, and chiles. Begin pounding and grinding the chiles and garlic into a fine paste.
- Start adding tomatoes to the mix a few at a time, continuing to grind.
- Keep working the sauce until the tomatoes and chile paste is well incorporated.
- Serve in the molcajete or transfer to another container to store the sauce.
The intensity of this sauce can be adjusted by reducing or increasing the number of chiles you use. More chiles, more spice. I will also occasionally grind a fresh Fresno Chile or Serrano Chile to adjust the flavor a little. The combination of dried and fresh chiles rounds out of the flavor profile a little and adds complexity.